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So Many Shades

Reclaiming Self-Love in Colombia

By A'Dia G

¡Sonríe, porque eres negra!


There were too many colors around to feel blue! The vibrant street art in the Cartagena neighborhood was the highlight of my trip to Colombia. Barrio Getsemani. Once considered a ghetto, where only those from the area would travel to, the neighborhood is now a main tourist attraction. The colorful art adds beauty to the blocks filled with

boutique hotels, cafes and other businesses. I took in the energy of the neighborhood as I walked along the streets with twelve other Black women. Taking in the many sights before us, while stopping to take photos, we listened carefully to the history of the area.

I wanted to learn about the city from a different view, one that dismisses any of the commercialized history. I wanted to feel and learn from the eyes of the locals. I wanted the Real Cartagena Tour. Our guide, Chris explained the changes that occurred in the area. Gentrification. It’s happening everywhere. The families that were born and lived in Barrio Getsemani for generations were pushed out. Despite the fact that these families had been living there for decades, if documentation couldn’t be provided they were forced to move. Or they were bought out. I could relate to this story being told. As a native Washingtonian, living in the city for twenty plus years, I have seen the changes. DC natives leaving the city due to developers buying homes from long-term residents or residents not being able to keep up with increasing property taxes. Chris pointed out a building in the corner that’s now a boutique hotel. It used to be a crack house. Again, it’s happening everywhere.

Corporations and developers just hungry for dollars without a care about the history of the land and the locals. When you take away all the locals of a land, you are essentially trying to take away the soul of the area. You are taking away everything that makes the area unique. It was once a place that only those from the area would visit. Sure, the now energetic and vibrant neighborhood is pleasing to the eye. But as I looked around, I noticed it’s missing something more important. With more business rather than houses in the neighborhood, it’s missing its people.


While amongst the people, we ate fresh fruits and drank juices, as we all took in the flower and food market of the Old City. We tried fresh mango, oranges, pineapples and strawberries along with fresh orange juice. It was the best fresh fruit I have ever tasted. Simply bliss! Walking near the markets, we came across Manuel Zapata Olivella Plaza. The plaza dedicated to the Afro-Colombian doctor, anthropologist and author. Along with a marker dedicating the plaza to the Zapata Olivella family were white benches. Each with various quotes by the author. Chris also showed us the various colorful tree planter boxes. Each with its own unique design that were painted by those of African descent.

The planter boxes illustrated the distinctive features of those of African descent- big lips, big noses, big hair. Some boxes even depicted the choice of style- bold jewelry and colorful clothing. He explained that art was a statement. It was a reminder of those that once walked those streets but are not longer there. It was explained that it was a reminder that we as blacks are beautiful. That our features and shades may set us apart, but that’s what makes us unique and strong. ¡Sonríe, porque eres negra!

Smile, because you are Black!


Cartagena was a colorful experience with beautiful people and amazing food. If you are ever in the city, I would highly recommend taking a tour with Experience Real Cartagena.

Also don't miss out on the following:

  1. Explore the Walled City

  2. Grafitti Tour in Getsemani

  3. San Felipe Castle

  4. Totumo Mud Volcano

  5. Freedom Tour of Palenque

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